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Oklahoma minimum wage petition can move forward, court rules

The Oklahoma Supreme Court heard arguments on Gov. Kevin Stitt’s lawsuit challenging the validity of two new laws extending state-tribal tobacco and motor vehicle registration compacts.
Carmen Forman
Oklahoma Voice
The Oklahoma Supreme Court.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Monday that an initiative petition asking voters to raise the minimum wage can move forward.

“Initiative petition 446 does not clearly or manifestly violate either the Oklahoma or United States Constitution,” the court ruled in a 2-page order.

The vote was 7-2.

Supporters may proceed with gathering signatures, the order said.

The State Chamber and Farm Bureau Legal Foundation asked the court to toss it out.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in January.

State Question 832 asks voters to gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2029 from the current rate of $7.25. Future increases would be tied to the Consumer Price Index.

Challengers argued the state question would unconstitutionally delegate the amount of the state’s minimum wage to the U.S. Department of Labor by tying annual changes to the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index.

The CPI is an index which is changed on an ongoing basis based on the U.S. Labor Department’s discretion, challengers said.

The Oklahoma Constitution prohibits the Legislature from delegating its authority.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond sided with the challengers.

The proposed state question is a change in state law and is not a constitutional amendment.

Supporters need to collect 92,262 signatures to get it before voters. They are seeking to get it on the November ballot.

Supporters argued that the state already ties other things to the CPI.

Oklahoma’s minimum wage is tied to the federal minimum wage.

Supporters say an increase is needed because the minimum wage has not been raised in nearly 15 years.

“We look forward to delivering a victory for all the hard-working Oklahomans who desperately need a win at the ballot box,” said Amber England, Raise the Wage Oklahoma campaign spokesperson. “It’s time to let the people decide.”

Oklahoma Voice is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oklahoma Voice maintains editorial independence.

Barbara Hoberock is a senior reporter with Oklahoma Voice. She began her career in journalism in 1989 after graduating from Oklahoma State University. She began with the Claremore Daily Progress and then started working in 1990 for the Tulsa World. She has covered the statehouse since 1994 and served as Tulsa World Capitol Bureau chief. She covers statewide elected officials, the legislature, agencies, state issues, appellate courts and elections.
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